Wednesday, March 12, 2008
One in 4 teenage girls in the United States has at least one sexually transmitted disease, according to a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The trend is even worse among African-American girls: Nearly half have one or more STDs, compared with 20 percent of whites.
Human papillomavirus was the most common of the four diseases included in the study, affecting 18 percent of the girls studied. Chlamydia was a distant second at 4 percent, followed by trichomoniasis and genital herpes. The data is based on a nationally representative sample of 838 young women who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in 2003 and 2004.
Teen health experts say the study, billed as the first to look at common STD rates among young girls, highlights the need for comprehensive sex education that goes beyond the abstinence-only message pushed by the federal government. "It's a clear sign that something's wrong in terms of the way we teach sex education, the way we talk about it, and the message we send to youth," said Soo Ji Min, executive director of the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health. In addition, many teens don't get tested for sexually transmitted diseases because they don't think they're at risk, said Dr. John Douglas, director of the CDC's division of STD prevention.
Douglas said African-American girls are probably more vulnerable to STDs because of higher infection rates among blacks as a whole and less access to health care. The numbers "[do] not mean African Americans are taking greater behavioral risks. In fact, research suggests the opposite," he said. The CDC says women between the ages of 11 and 26 should be vaccinated against HPV, which can lead to cervical cancer. Annual chlamydia screening is also recommended for women under 26. . . . .
The study did not address young males and STD rates. NPR's Day to Day did a radio interview with Kevin Fenton of the CDC which discussed these number and the CDC report in general.